Act: the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
Activator (or Inoculum or Starter): a culture of micro-organisms and/or a mixture of enzymes used for speeding up the start of biodegradation/composting processes. The activator may be in a specially concentrated form or simply be matured organics recycled in the process
Active state: refers to organics that are undergoing, or are capable of undergoing, rapid biological decomposition. This usually means that they are emitting, or are capable of emitting, heat in the presence of moisture
Aerobic: in the presence of air (oxygen)
Alkalinity of water: its acid-neutralising capacity, being the sum of all titratable bases measured as its quantitative capacity to react with a strong acid to a designated pH
Anaerobic: in the absence of air (oxygen)
Amendments: see Feedstock amendments
Amenity: the existence of healthy, pleasant and agreeable (community) surroundings
Aquifer: a saturated permeable geologic unit that can transmit significant quantities of water under ordinary hydraulic gradients
AUSPLUME: an atmospheric dispersion model developed by, and available from the Victorian EPA (EPA Centre for Air Quality Studies, Environment Protection Authority Victoria, Latrobe Research & Development Park, Ernest Jones Drive, MACLEOD VIC 3085)
Batch: samples taken from one site in one day
Bioaerosol: organisms or biological agents that can be dispersed through the air and that have the potential to affect human health (see also Biological particulate matter)
Biodegradable: able to be transformed to a lower state by environmentally significant biological processes
Biogas: gaseous emission from the anaerobic decomposition of organics
Biogas management strategy: a strategy that is specifically tailored to be appropriate for an individual site and that establishes procedures for the monitoring and control of biogas
The aim of making this strategy is to ensure that:
- biogas does not pose an explosion hazard
- the community amenity is not degraded by odour emissions
- community health is not degraded by emissions of hazardous air pollutants
- the impact of greenhouse gas emissions is minimised.
Biological particulate matter: a type of particulate matter that is characterised by its biological activity
Bioremediation: the remediation or decontamination of any contaminated matter by the use of processes involving biological organisms
Biosolids: the organic product that results from sewage treatment processes (otherwise referred to as sewage sludge)
Biosolids Guidelines: the document published by the NSW EPA titled Environmental Guidelines: Use and Disposal of Biosolids Products (EPA 1997) and Addendum to Environmental Guidelines: Use and Disposal of Biosolids (EPA 2000a)
Biosolids products: organics containing any component of biosolids, including pure biosolids in the form of liquid or cake, or derived organics such as compost, lime sludges or pellets
Buffer distance: the distance between the reception, storage and processing areas of a composting and related organics processing site and a segment of the environment to be protected
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Categorisation of organics: see table below.
Types of organics permitted in categories1
(Categories with larger numbers may contain types from classes with smaller numbers.)
Examples of organics
Garden and landscaping organics
Grass2; leaves; plants; loppings; branches; tree trunks and stumps
Sawdust; shavings; timber offcuts; crates; pallets; wood packaging.
Natural organic fibrous organics
Peat; seed hulls/husks; straw; bagasse and other natural organic fibrous organics.
Processed fibrous organics
Paper; cardboard; paper-processing sludge; non-synthetic textiles.
Other natural or processed vegetable organics
Vegetables; fruit and seeds and processing sludges and wastes; winery, brewery and distillery wastes; food organics excluding organics in Category 3.
Biosolids3 and manures
Sewage biosolids, animal manure and mixtures of manure and biodegradable animal bedding organics.
Meat, fish and
Carcasses and parts of carcasses; blood; bone; fish; fatty processing or food.
Fatty and oily sludges and organics of animal and vegetable origin
Dewatered grease trap; fatty and oily sludges of animal and vegetable origin.
Dewatered grease trap; fatty and oily sludges of animal and vegetable origin.
Mixed residual waste containing putrescible organics
Wastes containing putrescible organics, including household domestic waste that is set aside for kerbside collection or delivered by the householder directly to a processing facility, and waste from commerce and industry.
- These categories are used only to facilitate reference to these groupings of waste and organics (with different potential environmental impacts) in these guidelines and in environment protection licences: they are not used in waste legislation.
- Particular care should be taken when grass clippings are present in the feedstock. It is well known that careful process management is required to mitigate odour and leachate problems when processing grass clippings (e.g. Buckner 2002). High moisture content, high nitrogen levels, abundance of readily available organic matter and poor structure and tendency to mat mean that grass can easily become anaerobic and odorous.
- Conditions applying to processing and use can be found in Environmental Guidelines: Use and Disposal of Biosolids Products (EPA 1997).
C:N (carbon to nitrogen) ratio: the ratio, by mass, of carbon atoms to nitrogen atoms present in the organics
Closure plan: a plan required by conditions of an EPA environment protection licence issued by the EPA in accordance with Section 76 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 for a specific facility to establish procedures for the closure of the site. Information to be included in this plan includes:
- timetable for staged remediation
- revegetation or stabilisation program
- proposed post-closure monitoring, maintenance and use
Compost: stable, pasteurised organics resulting from the controlled microbiological transformation of organics
Compost pad: the prepared area upon which composting takes place
Composting: the process of aerobic conversion (under controlled conditions) of organics by micro-organisms, yielding cured soil conditioners, compost or humus
Composting and related organics processing: for the purpose of these guidelines means the production of composts, soil conditioners, mulches and other products by processes including composting, mulching, digestion and fermentation
Cover material: material used to cover organics at processing facilities
Cured: refers to biodegraded organics that are stable in their current form with respect to normal composting processes
Curing: the process during which organics that have already gone through the active/rapid stage of biodegradation become cured
DEC: the Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW). DEC incorporates the staff of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), National Parks and Wildlife Service, Botanic Gardens Trust and Resource NSW, and creates strong linkages with the Sydney Catchment Authority
Decomposition: the breakdown of organics by micro-organisms
Design requirement: describes the minimum requirements and/or refers to Minimum Design Requirements specified in Section 5 that must be addressed by facility planners. Design requirements may also list and/or refer to acceptable environmental management techniques to be considered by facility planners
DUAP: Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, formerly known as the New South Wales Department of Urban Affairs and Planning
Electrical conductivity: sometimes written as EC-a measure of the ability of water to conduct an electric current. EC varies with temperature. It is sensitive to variations in dissolved solids, mostly mineral salts
eH: sometimes written as Eh, this is the redox potential that characterises the oxidation-reduction state of natural waters (commonly varying between -500 mV and + 700 mV). It is usually determined potentiometrically in situ in the field
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Environmental issue: consists of four parts:
- objective, which sets out the expected environmental results, and guides the formulation of strategies to achieve the objective
- design requirement, which describes the minimum requirements and/or refers to Minimum Design Requirements in Section 5 that must be addressed by facility planners. Design requirements may be placed into 'general terms of approval' during the development assessment process.
- performance requirements, which define what must be done to achieve the desired outcome
- performance measurements, which set out ways of measuring the performance requirements to determine whether the desired outcome is being achieved
Environment protection licence: see the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
EPA: the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority. The EPA is a statutory body with specific powers under environment protection legislation. In September 2003, the EPA became part of the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC)
Facility: a premises at which a scheduled activity under schedule 1 to the Act takes place
Feedstock: organics suitable for composting, fermentation, mulching and related processes
Feedstock amendments: wastes or organics added to organics before processing to improve the final product. Examples include water absorbent biodegradable organics (such as sawdust, wood shavings and paper pulp), and/or inorganic chemicals/minerals (such as lime, gypsum, ammonium phosphate or ammonium nitrate) added to modify the pH and/or the nutritional content of the composting mixture
Fermentation: the anaerobic process of turning organics into high-energy compounds such as methane, organic acids and alcohols and a solid residue that can be composted and/or cured and pasteurised, yielding compost or soil amendments
Greenhouse gases: gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, that are implicated in the greenhouse effect, which in turn is thought to cause global warming
Groundwater: any water contained in or occurring below the surface of the ground
Hazardous waste: any liquid or non-liquid waste that is:
- specified in Part 3 of the Appendix below, or
- otherwise assessed and classified as hazardous waste in accordance with the procedures set out in the Waste Guidelines.
APPENDIX-Types of Waste
Part 3 Types of hazardous waste
- (1) Any waste that meets the criteria for assessment as dangerous goods under the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail, and categorised as one of the following: (a) explosives, (b) gases (compressed, liquefied or dissolved under pressure), (c) flammable solids (excluding garden organics, natural organic fibrous material and wood organics, and all physical forms of carbon such as activated carbon and graphite), (d) flammable liquids, (e) substances liable to spontaneous combustion (excluding garden organics, natural organic fibrous material and wood organics, and all physical forms of carbon such as activated carbon and graphite), (f) substances which in contact with water emit flammable gases, (g) oxidising agents and organic peroxides, (h) toxic substances, (i) corrosive substances.
- (2) Pharmaceuticals and poisons (being waste generated by activities carried out for business or other commercial purposes and that consists of pharmaceutical or other chemical substances specified in the Poisons List under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966).
- (3) Clinical waste.
- (4) Cytotoxic waste.
- (5) Sharps waste.
- (6) Any radioactive waste, being waste that: (a) contains a substance that emits ionising radiation spontaneously, and (b) has a specific activity greater than 100 becquerels per gram, and (c) consists of, or contains more than, the prescribed activity of any radioactive element listed in Schedule 1 to the Radiation Control Regulation 1993.
- (7) Any liquid radioactive waste, being waste that: (a) contains a substance that emits ionising radiation spontaneously, and (b) has a specific activity ratio or a total activity ratio (as determined in accordance with the procedures set out in the Waste Guidelines) that is greater than one.
- (8) Any declared chemical waste that: (a) is the subject of a chemical control order under the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985, and (b) is not permitted to be disposed of to a landfill site because of such an order.
- (9) Quarantine waste.
[Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997]
Inactivation: when referring to weed seeds and propagable shoots, means that they are no longer capable of propagating plant forms. When referring to pathogens and other organisms, means a reduction in their numbers and their activity so that they do not pose a threat to the life and health of other organisms
ISCST3: an atmospheric dispersion model developed by and available from the USEPA
Leachate: liquid released by, or water that has percolated through, organics, and which contains dissolved and/or suspended liquids and/or solids and/or gases
Litter: solid waste or organics that has been carelessly discarded and is not part of the collection system
Lysimeter: an instrument to collect water flowing through the vadose zone or unsaturated zone in the soil
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Material recovery: a form of resource recovery in which the emphasis is on separating and processing organics
Methane (CH4): an explosive, odourless and colourless gas produced by organics undergoing anaerobic biological decomposition
Minimum Design Requirements: describe and/or list the minimum requirements for the design of environmental management equipment and practices (e.g. working surfaces) for the protection of waters (see Section 5)
Mulching: the size reduction of organics using one or more of the processes such as the following: cutting, milling, shredding and grinding. Usually the mulch is then pasteurised.
Non-liquid waste: any waste that:
- has an angle of repose of more than 5 degrees, and
- does not contain, or is not comprised of, any free liquids (as determined in accordance with the Waste Guidelines), and
- does not contain, or is not comprised of, any liquids that are capable of being released when the waste is transported, and
- does not become free flowing at or below 60 degrees Celsius or when it is transported, and
- is generally capable of being picked up by a spade or shovel.
[Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997]
Offensive odour means an odour:
- that, by reason of its strength, nature, duration, character or quality, or the time at which it is emitted, or any other circumstances:
- is harmful to (or is likely to be harmful to) a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
- interferes unreasonably with (or is likely to interfere unreasonably with) the comfort or repose of a person who is outside the premises from which it is emitted, or
- that is of a strength, nature, duration, character or quality prescribed by the regulations or that is emitted at a time, or in other circumstances, prescribed by the regulations
Organics: means natural organic materials of waste and non waste origin including:
- putrescible organics (such as: meat, fish, poultry, fruit, vegetables and their cooked or processed products; biosolids and manures; and animal materials), and
- non putrescible organics (such as: timber; garden trimmings; agricultural, forestry and crop materials; and natural fibrous organic and vegetative materials),
- human made organic chemicals (such as: solvents; industrial, agricultural, mining, commercial, household chemicals; cleansing agents; and personal care products), and
- naturally occurring organic chemicals which have been refined and/or concentrated by human activity (such as: oil; petrol; diesel; and coal tar)
(see Section 3 Table 3 for their further categorisation for composting processes)
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Pasteurisation: the process involving heat and resulting in reduction in the levels of human, animal and plant pathogens and in the inactivation of weed seeds and propagable shoots
Pathogen: a living organism that can be harmful to humans, animals, plants or other living organisms
Performance measurement: specifies the process to be followed in measuring environmental characteristics to determine whether a particular performance requirement or desired outcome is being met or achieved, or the extent of the difference between the measured characteristic of the environment and a particular performance requirement or a particular desired outcome
Performance requirement: defines the quantifiable or qualifiable characteristics of the environment against which environmental quality can be assessed
pH: the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration of an aqueous solution. This provides a measure of whether a solution is acid or alkaline.
POEO Act: the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
- a building or structure, or
- land or a place (whether enclosed or not), or
- a mobile plant, vehicle, vessel or aircraft
Processing of organics: For the purposes of these guidelines, 'processing' includes composting, digestion, mulching, fermentation and similar processes that involve biological organisms
Propagule: a part of a plant that can lead to the growth (propagation) of a full plant in the environment, such as a seed, rootstock, stem or leaf
Rapidly biodegradable organics: biodegradable organics, including putrescible organics, that are able to be decomposed under favourable conditions by microbial action, in both the presence and the absence of oxygen, to a noticeable extent within 14 days; rapidly biodegradable organics include grass clippings, food and animal organics and organic sludges
Recycling of organics: the processing of organics into a similar non-waste product
Related organic processing: processes for the conversion of organics into soil conditioners, compost, humus or other products (for example, mulching, fermentation and digestion). They should be processes that are carried out under controlled conditions.
Relative per cent difference: the difference between duplicate samples divided by the average and expressed as a percentage
Resource recovery: the extraction and use of resources from waste and/or organic sources. Resources recovered can be used in the manufacture of new products. Recovery of value includes the production of energy by using components of waste as a fuel, production of compost using organics as a medium, and reclamation of land.
Run-off: the portion of precipitation that drains as a surface flow
Run-on: where surface water runs off one site and flows on to the site in question (that is, the composting and related organics processing site)
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Sludge: material that has settled to the bottom of a waste-treatment device
Solid: see Non-liquid waste
Solid waste landfill: a site for the disposal of solid waste by landfilling, as defined in Environmental Guidelines: Solid Waste Landfills (EPA 1996).
Spadeable: a physical state of material in which the material behaves sufficiently like a solid to be able to be moved by a spade at normal outdoor temperatures
Stabilised or stable: not prone to further biodegradation (see Cured)
Surface water: includes all natural and constructed waterways or channels whether flow is intermittent or not; all lakes and impoundments (except lined dams associated with landfilling activities; and other marshes, lagoons and swamps)
The Act: the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
Toxins: substances that are harmful to humans, animals or plants
Transfer station: a waste facility used to transfer waste from collection vehicles to a bulk haul vehicle in order to achieve long-distance transportation efficiency
Treatment of waste: the processing of waste into a different type of waste
Uppermost aquifer: the nearest geological medium to the base of the processing surface that acts, or could potentially act, as an aquifer
Vadose zone: the zone beneath the topsoil and overlying the watertable, in which water in pore spaces coexists with air or in which the geological materials are unsaturated
Vector: a carrier that is capable of transmitting a pathogen from one organism to another
Vermiculture (or vermicomposting): a composting process that uses worms and micro-organisms to convert organics into nutrient-rich humus
Waste: as defined in the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997:
waste (unless specifically defined) includes:
- any substance (whether solid, liquid or gaseous) that is discharged, emitted or deposited in the environment in such volume, constituency or manner as to cause an alteration in the environment, or
- any discarded, rejected, unwanted, surplus or abandoned substance, or
- any otherwise discarded, rejected, unwanted, surplus or abandoned substance intended for sale or for recycling, processing, recovery or purification by a separate operation from that which produced the substance, or
- any substance prescribed by the regulation to be waste for the purposes of this Act.
A substance is not precluded from being waste for the purposes of the Act merely because it can be processed, re-used or recycled.
Waste Guidelines: the document called Environmental Guidelines: Assessment, Classification and Management of Liquid and Non-Liquid Wastes, issued by the EPA and in force as at 1 July 1999 (EPA 1999a)
Water assessment plan: a plan that is developed to enable the occupier to detect any water pollution at the premises (see Appendix D)
Water assessment report: a report that describes the extent of failure of water and/or leachate management when assessment of water monitoring results detects a possible incidence of water pollution
Water management strategy: a strategy that describes the measures to be taken to protect groundwater and surface water, including:
- measures to prevent uncontrolled discharges from the facility
- measures to avoid discharges of water of lower environmental quality than those of the receiving waters
- measures to monitor the quality of waters that are present at or near the facility and the environmental quality of which may be affected by activities on the facility
- measures to be taken to remediate waters in the event of confirmed pollution by discharges.
Water pollution remediation plan: a structured plan for the remediation of groundwater, subsoil or surface water bodies when a preliminary water assessment of the site (Appendix A) or assessment of water monitoring results detects pollution that requires remediation
Watertable: the level of the upper surface of an aquifer
Windrow: system of composting involving the aeration of horizontally extended piles formed by a front-end loader or windrow turner. Extended piles are generally 1.5 to 3 m in height, and length is limited by the size of the composting pad. Aeration can be achieved by mechanical turning and/or the delivery of air from the base of the windrow.
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Page last updated: 12 July 2012